Filed by Carina Soto, Kelly Pappas, and Joe Booth.
National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) / GEAR UP
Annual Conference 2016
Peer learning, storytelling, evaluation, GEAR UP grant competition
One of the best segments from this year’s conference was the Youth Leadership Summit’s (YLS) closing presentation put on by YLS Student Leaders. One moment from the presentation that stood out was a skit whereby students tackled the topic of media bias that exists in representing their challenges and struggles, and the impact that untruths or partial truths about student backgrounds and achievement potential can have on their ability to succeed. In response to the media bias and stereotypes, students went on to share the power that GEAR UP has had on them – encouraging them to use their voice and take the knowledge they’ve gained through GEAR UP on to the next level…to literally “gear up” for future success in college and life. As one student put it, “you are not defined by your circumstances, but by your choices.” GEAR UP, like Career & College Clubs, guides students to make the right choices by empowering them with the information they need to succeed. It was a great send off to all of the adults in the room at the end of an electrifying conference, reminding us all that our work truly matters! #GearUpworks
A high school sophomore student named Lucero received the Youth of the Year Award and gave an amazing and inspiring speech. It was clear Lucero embodies the spirit of GEAR UP and strives to enrich and improve herself, her peers, and her community. “Her presence inspires and mobilizes peers, educators, family advocates, and other community members to work cooperatively and collaboratively on joint projects to address college readiness, enrollment, and completion.” Her achievements are completely in line with our goals here at Career & College Clubs, and her accomplishments encourage all of us.
This was my first GEAR UP conference, and I was struck by the energy of the GEAR UP community. Many of the 2,000 attendees traveled long distances, yet they came to the opening breakfast/plenary full of spirit and excited for the next few days of networking and professional development. I’ve been to myriad education industry conferences, but rarely witness such passion for helping students succeed.
While only a small portion of attendees, I think the high school students attending the conference contributed disproportionately to the overall energy. We experience this with our Career & College Clubs as well – something about bringing students together to help each other has a positive impact far beyond the students themselves.